Friday 30 September 2011


Out now on DVD and Blu-ray is Kenneth Branagh's Thor, the latest entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Watch the trailer and find out what he's good for, next...

After disobeying the orders of his father, Thor (Chris Hemsworth), heir to the throne of Asgard, finds himself stripped of his powers and banished to Earth in an attempt to learn an important lesson in humility. As Thor adjusts to his New Mexico surroundings with the help of local scientist Jane (Natalie Portman), little does he know that back in Asgard his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) plots to take control of the kingdom and prevent Thor from ever returning.

I'll admit that I had a fairly limited knowledge of the Marvel comics iteration of the Thor character, but I've always considered him to be one of those slightly stupid properties that didn't deserve its own cinematic (or televisual) outing, my opinion largely based on the only previous reference of the character for me being a cringeworthy appearance in the Incredible Hulk TV movie. There he was a loud, obnoxious bore with a costume that was about as subtle as a hammer to the solar plexus, and definitely not a character who could sustain my interest for two hours. Then, when Marvel decided to give Thor his own film in the build-up to the Avengers and hired renowned Shakespearean actor/director Kenneth Branagh for the directors seat, I really didn't know what to expect.

Seeing that Branagh seemingly had no qualifications that would make him suitable for the job, I was a little apprehensive about this entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Thankfully I needn't have worried, as Thor has turned out to be a surprisingly good superhero movie, not necessarily matching its big brother franchise Iron Man for action, but perhaps equaling it in entertainment value. That can be largely attributed to the performance of leading man Chris Hemsworth and the keen comedic eye of director Branagh. Thor the character may still be loud and obnoxious, but with his backstory filled in it seems oddly justified. He's the Warrior Prince of Asgard with an ego the size of Mjolnir, so sticking him in the middle of a small New Mexico town stripped of his powers was going to lead to a new spin on the character.

At the cinema Thor was delivered to us in one of the most unnecessary uses of 3D yet, so it's much preferable that on Blu-ray the clarity of the picture allows us to fully experience the CGI world of Asgard. The film doesn't just rely on its action to provide entertainment (although Thor does enjoy a bit of chest-beating hand to hand combat) delivering more laughs than you'd expect from a superhero film. Sure, Iron Man has the quippy Robert Downey Jr as its lead, but Thor gets plenty of laughs from its daft, Short Circuit-esque, fish out of water premise.

Chris Hemsworth is solid (in more ways than one) as Thor, adding a lot of charisma to the character's brutish nature. He works well as the big man in a small town, and handles the comedic aspects well (I guarantee that the next time you pass a pet shop, you'll have the urge to stride in shouting "I need a Horse!"). Tom Hiddleston also does some good work as Thor's younger brother Loki, although it's pretty easy to guess any character revelations from the start. As Odin, ruler of Asgard, Anthony Hopkins is being his usual calm, collected then SHOUTY self, but shares some good paternal scenes with his character's sons that justify the hiring of Shakespeare nut, Kenneth Branagh.

Away from the main action there's some aspects that just don't work or aren't exploited enough. Idris Elba is frustratingly under used as the guardian of Asgard, but in his brief scenes makes them buzz with a tense energy. I'd have preferred to have seen more of him than Thor's battle-ready buddies The Warriors Three, who are utterly redundant and pointless to the story. Their outfits look ridiculous when transposed to the real world and not in a comic mismatch way either, the plasticky material looking cheap and nasty in natural sunlight. Natalie Portman's appearance seems like an odd piece of casting too. In what is a rather thankless role she's not by any means bad and shares some obvious sexual chemistry with Hemsworth, but there's one too many characters running around on Earth and I'd rather get rid of her credibility-stretching scientist Jane than Kat Dennings' funny sidekick Darcy.

If you've been following the creation of the ultimate fighting team ahead of 2012's superhero smackdown The Avengers, Marvel have made sure you're going to have to see this film if you want to have any idea what's going on. It's not that each singular film's plotting is complex, but the franchises are getting so referential (aka incestual) of one another, the completed saga is going to be as easy to follow as Memento crossed with Primer, but with added tights thrown in. There's nods to those superheroes who've already appeared on the big screen along with some brief cameos that should all make sense sometime around July next year. Hopefully the big Avengers finale will live up to all the hype, but personally I'm not so sure that these characters will work on screen when thrown together into one team.

As a stand-alone film Thor has plenty to offer, although possibly more comedically than in the action stakes. There's enough hammer flinging fun to please those expecting a more straightforward actioner, but it's the unexpected laughs that linger on. Very entertaining stuff and a fantastic re-introduction to the Thor character, even if it does feel like the precursor to something bigger.


Available as a single disc DVD, a Triple Play Blu-ray or a 3D Blu-ray. Extras include a commentary by Director Kenneth Branagh, deleted scenes, Road to The Avengers and behind the scenes featurettes. The most intriguing extra on the disc is the Marvel produced short film, The Consultant. Starring Clark Gregg (aka Agent Coulson), it acts as a bridge between the multiple franchises that Marvel hope to bring together for The Avengers.

1 comment:

  1. Thor was a let-down for me - the fish-out-of-water comedy was a decent approach, but without delivering enough decent gags, and there were too many duff performances and mediocre special effects. Plus at no point did Thor say "Stop... hammer time!" A tragically missed opportunity to say the least...